Article Title



Pauline Paine


This special issue of Nexus is devoted to an analysis of concepts of sex and gender in selected Oceanic societies. Interest in the variable ways people construct and perceive gender is a relatively new development in anthropology and reflects a growing appreciation of the cross-cultural diversity in gender forms. However, an understanding of the variable criteria upon which gender can be constructed cannot occur unless accompanied by an awareness of the profound effect Western ideas concerning sex and gender have had upon the interpretation and analysis of gender systems world wide. Much current research rests on Western assumptions, often implicit, concerning the nature of sex and gender and the relationship of men to women. In order to underscore this point, I have chosen, in the introduction, to highlight Western culture's perception of sex and gender in order that we may understand the culture specific meanings and assumptions that such concepts carry. This, I suggest, is essential for an understanding of the papers that follow. In the following article Western notions of sex and gender will be outlined in some detail and their effect on anthropological analysis discussed. Finally, our culture's construction of gender will be juxtaposed with those of selected societies in the Middle East, North America and the Pacific in order to demonstrate the very different, but no less 'real', basis on which gender is constructed elsewhere.